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Melachim uMilchamot - Chapter 6

Melachim uMilchamot - Chapter 6

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Halacha 1

War, neither a milchemet hareshut or a milchemet mitzvah, should not be waged against anyone until they are offered the opportunity of peace as Deuteronomy 20:10 states: 'When you approach a city to wage war against it, you should propose a peaceful settlement.'

If the enemy accepts the offer of peace and commits itself to the fulfillment of the seven mitzvot that were commanded to Noah's descendents, none of them should be killed. Rather, they should be subjugated as ibid.:11 states: 'They shall be your subjects and serve you.'

If they agree to tribute, but do not accept subjugation or if they accept subjugation, but do not agree to tribute, their offer should not be heeded. They must accept both.

The subjugation they must accept consists of being on a lower level, scorned and humble. They must never raise their heads against Israel, but must remain subjugated under their rule. They may never be appointed over a Jew in any matter whatsoever.

The tribute they must accept consists of being prepared to support the king's service with their money and with their persons; for example, the building of walls, strengthening the fortresses, building the king's palace, and the like as I Kings 9:15-22) relates: "This is the tribute which Solomon raised to build the House of God, his own palace, the Milo, the wall of Jerusalem,... and all the store-cities which Solomon had... All the people that remained from the Amorites... upon them did Solomon lay a tribute of bondservice until this day."

In contrast, Solomon did not make bondsmen out of the children of Israel. They were men of war, his personal servants, his princes, his captains, the officers of his chariots, and his horsemen.

Halacha 2

In the settlement he offers, the king may propose that he is entitled to take half their financial resources. Or he may propose to take all their landed property and leave them their movable property; or to take all their movable property and leave their land.

Halacha 3

It is forbidden to lie when making such a covenant or to be untruthful to them after they have made peace and accepted the seven mitzvot.

Halacha 4

If they do not agree to a peaceful settlement, or if they agree to a peaceful settlement, but refuse to accept the seven mitzvot, war should be waged against them.

All males past majority should be killed. Their money and their children should be taken as spoil, but neither women or children should be killed, as Deuteronomy 20:14 states: 'But the women and the children... take as spoil." 'The children' refer to males below the age of majority.

The above applies to a milchemet hareshut fought with other nations. However, if either the seven nations or Amalek refuse to accept a peaceful settlement, not one soul of them may be left alive as ibid. 20:15-16 states: 'Do this to all the cities that ... are not the cities of these nations. However, from the cities of these nations,... do not leave a soul alive.' Similarly, in regard to Amalek, Deuteronomy 25:19 states: 'Obliterate the memory of Amalek.'

How do we know that these commands are only referring to those who did not accept a peaceful settlement? Joshua 11:19-20 states: 'There was no city which accepted a peaceful settlement with the children of Israel except the Chivites who lived in Gibeon. All the rest, they conquered in battle. This was inspired by God, Who strengthened their hearts to engage in battle against Israel so that they would be destroyed.' From these statements, we can infer that a peaceful settlement was offered, but they did not accept it.

Halacha 5

Joshua sent three letters to the Canaanites before entering the promised land: At first, he sent them: 'Whoever desires to flee, should flee.'

Afterwards, he sent a second message: 'Whoever desires to accept a peaceful settlement, should make peace.'

Then, he sent again: 'Whoever desires war, should do battle.'

If so, why did the inhabitants of Gibeon employ a ruse? Because originally, when he sent the message to them as part of all the Canaanite nations, they did not accept. They were not aware of the laws of Israel and thought that they would never be offered a peaceful settlement again.

Why was the matter difficult for the princes of Israel to accept to the point that they desired to slay the Gibeonites by the sword were it not for the oath they had taken? Because they made a covenant with them and Deuteronomy 7:2 states 'Do not make a covenant with them.' Rather, the laws governing their status would have prescribed that they be subjugated as servants.

Since the oath was given to them under false pretenses, it would have been just to slay them for misleading them, were it not for the dishonor to God's name which would have been caused.

Halacha 6

No offer of a peaceful settlement should be made to Ammon and Moav, as Deuteronomy 23:7 states: 'Do not seek their peace and welfare for all your days.' Our Sages declared: Although it is written: 'Offer a peaceful settlement,' does this apply to Ammon and Moab? The Torah states: 'Do not seek their peace and welfare.'

Although it is written Deuteronomy 23:17: 'He must be allowed to live alongside you in you midst,' does this apply to Ammon and Moav? No, the Torah also forbids 'their welfare.'

Even though we should not offer them a peaceful settlement, if they sue for peace themselves, we may accept their offer.

Halacha 7

When a siege is placed around a city to conquer it, it should not be surrounded on all four sides, only on three. A place should be left for the inhabitants to flee and for all those who desire, to escape with their lives, as it is written Numbers 31:7: 'And they besieged Midian as God commanded Moses.' According to tradition, He commanded them to array the siege as described.

Halacha 8

We should not cut down fruit trees outside a city nor prevent an irrigation ditch from bringing water to them so that they dry up, as Deuteronomy 20:19 states: 'Do not destroy its trees.' Anyone who cuts down such a tree should be lashed.

This does not apply only in a siege, but in all situations. Anyone who cuts down a fruit tree with a destructive intent, should be lashed.

Nevertheless, a fruit tree may be cut down if it causes damage to other trees or to fields belonging to others, or if a high price could be received for its wood. The Torah only prohibited cutting down a tree with a destructive intent.

Halacha 9

It is permissible to cut down any non-fruit bearing tree, even if one has no need for it. Similarly, one may cut down a fruit bearing tree that has become old and produces only a slight yield which does not warrant the effort required to care for it.

What is the yield that an olive tree must produce to warrant that it should not be cut down? A quarter of a kav of olives. Similarly, a date palm which yields a kav of dates should not be cut down.

Halacha 10

This prohibition does not apply to trees alone. Rather, anyone who breaks utensils, tears garments, destroys buildings, stops up a spring, or ruins food with a destructive intent transgresses the command 'Do not destroy.' However, he is not lashed. Instead, he receives stripes for rebellious conductas instituted by the Sages.

Halacha 11

We should lay siege to the gentiles' cities at least three days before the Sabbath. We may engage in battle with them every day, even on the Sabbath, as Deuteronomy 20:20 states: 'against the city waging war with you until you subjugate it.' Our Sages explain: this implies 'even on the Sabbath.' This applies to both a milchemet mitzvah and a milchemet hareshut.

Halacha 12

The army may camp anywhere.

A person killed in the war should be buried where he falls. He acquires that place in the same manner as a meit mitzvah acquires his.

13. Four leniencies are permitted in an army camp:

a) Demai may be eaten.

b) There is no requirement to wash one's hands before eating bread.

c) Wood may be gathered from anywhere. Even if one finds wood that has been cut down and dried, there is no objection to taking it for an army camp.

d) There is no obligation to make an eruv chatzeirot for an army camp. Rather, one may carry from tent to tent and from booth to booth.

The latter is only permitted when the entire camp is surrounded by a barrier at least ten handbreadths high, for as explained in Hilchot Shabbat, a barrier must be at least ten handbreadths high.

Just as these leniencies apply when the army goes out to war, they apply when it returns.

Halacha 14

It is forbidden to defecate in an army camp or in an open field anywhere. Rather, it is a positive commandment to establish comfort facilities for the soldiers to defecate as Deuteronomy 23:13 commands: 'Designate a place outside the camp to use as a lavatory.'

Halacha 15

Similarly, it is a positive commandment for every single soldier to have a spike hanging together with his weapons. When he goes out and uses those comfort facilities, he should dig with it, relieve himself, and cover his excrement as ibid.:14 states 'You must keep a spike among your weapons.'

They must follow these practices at all times, whether the ark accompanies them or not, as ibid.:15 states: 'God walks among your camp,... therefore, your camp shall be holy.'

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